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Preview: Invention of Baron Avro Manhattan Laurel’s Whitley Bay


Celebrated local playwright brings the ghost of South Shields’ mysterious Baron to Whitley Bay


The Invention of Baron Avro Manhattan

Laurel’s Whitley Bay

Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 October 2022


If you ask most people to name a Baron, they may mention the Bloody Baron from Harry Potter or the notorious fantasist, Baron Munchausen. People over 50 from South Shields might remember a different Baron, Avro Manhattan, who, it turns out, may have shared some characteristics with Munchausen.

He was a painter and a poet but is best known for writing over 30 books, mostly packed with conspiracy theories critical of the Catholic Church. He lived for nearly 30 years in an unassuming terraced house in Henry Nelson Street and was a well-known local celebrity. He told exciting stories of risking his life in the war and associating with celebrities like H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Picasso. The question is; how many of the stories were actually true?

Tom Kelly, mainstay of the Customs House, who brought us the hugely popular musicals Tom and Catherine, Geordie the Musical and The Dolly Mixtures, as well as the plays, Bobby Robson Saved My Life, I left my heart in Roker Park and many others, is bringing Avro’s story to the stage at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay on 6-8 October.

Tom Kelly
Photo: Victoria Lamb

In a co-production between Baby Love Productions and Olivier-Award-winning producer, Jamie Alexander Eastlake, who is also directing, the play will occupy the performance space in Whitley Bay’s newest arts venue for 3 nights, with a view to touring the region in Spring 2023.

According to Jonathan Cash, who is playing Avro, “The play is a fascinating mix of drama and comedy, fact and speculation. Avro claimed his middle name was really Lucifer, he visited Moscow and associated with Russian spies, he was the lover of Marie Stopes, the famous birth control campaigner, he may have run an underground radio station during the war, and he died with numerous honours, some of which are almost certainly bogus. Trying to find the truth has been a real challenge. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. He is a fascinating character.”

Jonathan Cash
Photo: Joanne Oliver

“It was Gary Alikivi, South Shields cultural historian, blogger and film-maker that brought the character to my attention when he asked me to voice him for a short film, Secrets and Lies. I was intrigued by the idea of bringing him to the stage and Tom shared my vision.  We first had a draft 3 years ago but then the pandemic hit and everything was put on hold. Once things were moving again, we took the idea to Jamie Eastlake and he was really keen to stage the play.”

Avro and Anne
The play features a fictional journalist played by Cramlington-based actor, Charlotte Wraith, who comes to interview Avro at his home. She is determined to uncover the truth but Avro has a few tricks up his sleeve, so it soon becomes a game of cat and mouse, with no certainty which one is which.

Laurel’s recently saw two sell-out runs of Jamie Eastlake’s self-penned Gerry and Sewell -A purely Belter Adventure.



The Invention of Baron Avro Manhattan runs at Laurel’s Whitley Bay from Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 October at 7.30 pm. Tickets are available from the venue:

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